Murdo Fraser: I had an accident on the A9 and I've never felt pain like it
Getting to Know You
The Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife tells Holyrood about his love of seventeenth century history, his favourite pair of walking boots, and how he remains hopeful that he will see the A9 dualled.
What’s your earliest memory?
It’s of my father standing in front of the fireplace in the living room of my parents’ house and me holding onto his hands and walking up his legs. I was about two. I remember he was wearing brown trousers, which dates me a bit.
What were you like at school?
I was a good pupil — I was a bit of a swot. I went to the local school, Inverness Royal Academy. It got called the IRA, which always confused people. I coped well with most subjects. This will come as a surprise to a lot of people but I was quite quiet and shy at school. I probably lost that through politics. I wasn’t really interested in politics when I was young but when I went to university — I studied law at Aberdeen — I got interested in things like debating and public speaking and that’s when I started to come out of my shell.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
I’m a bit of a history buff and love listening to the The Rest is History podcast with Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. I saw them live at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh recently. My two dream dinner dates would be them — it would be the most entertaining and informative conversation.
You wrote a history book didn’t you — what was that about?
My major interest is the seventeenth century. A few years ago I wrote a book on an aspect of Scottish history that was the rivalry between the Marquis of Montrose and the Marquis of Argyll, who were on opposite sides of the Scottish Civil War in the 1640s. The seventeenth century is the start of the modern world. It’s the period when we decided what sort of country we should have, how it should be governed and what the relationship between the monarch, the parliament and the people should be.
If you could go back in time is that where you would go?
I’d love to be a fly on the wall for the conversations that took place at that time, particularly with Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. In the middle of that century the king got his head cut off and there was a series of revolutions. It was utterly unprecedented in British history for the country to be in a position without a monarch and with parliament running the country.
What’s your greatest fear?
It’s of letting people down. It’s an enormous privilege to be a member of parliament and people put a lot of trust in you in this position. A very large proportion of the work we do is trying to help individuals. I try to do my best for everyone but there are always people who, no matter what you do or how much time you spend, you simply can’t get the result for them that you want. The worst part of the job is when you have to say to people “sorry, there’s nothing more I can do for you”. I really, really hate letting people down.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Apart from the obvious like family photos probably my walking boots. I have a very good Meindl pair, which were quite expensive, and they have never let me down. I do a lot of climbing and hiking and I’m slowly climbing the Munros – I’m at 236. I did four at Easter, in the Fannichs between Garve and Ullapool.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
When I was younger I used to think my ears were too big and stuck out too far. That used to worry me but as you get older you care much less about these things and what people think. It doesn’t worry me now.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I’m a big fan of classic comedies and watch endless reruns of Fawlty Towers and Dad’s Army. My particular favourite is Father Ted. Every episode is a work of genius and I’ve seen them all over and over.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
There are two: don’t take yourself too seriously and nothing is ever as good or as bad as it first appears.
What skill should every person have?
Empathy. The ability to be able to relate to people in whatever circumstance or whatever background they are from. It’s a particular skill that politicians need and it’s interesting how few politicians possess it.
What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?
When I was in my early 20s I was involved in a very serious car accident. I was driving on the A9 and was involved in a head-on crash and had multiple fractures, including a shattered femur. Being cut out of the car and taken away in an ambulance was agonising. The memory of it brings me out in a cold sweat. I’m still waiting and still hoping that the A9 will be dualled.
What’s your top film of all time?
The Godfather. It’s just a masterpiece — the performances are amazing, the script is very well done, and I like the narrative of good versus evil and how the central character gets sucked into being a criminal mastermind when he had started off definitely not going to go down that road. It shows how vulnerable everyone is to corruption.
What was your best holiday ever?
My wife and I went on honeymoon to Zimbabwe and had two wonderful weeks touring around visiting game parks and going to Victoria Falls. It was our silver wedding anniversary four years ago and we went back with our two children. That was amazing and they thoroughly enjoyed it too – especially dodging hippos on the Zambezi River.
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